Simonsen’s tribute as key man Collins returns

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STEVE Simonsen last night spoke of his delight at Neill Collins’ return to the Sheffield United fold.

Collins, whose performances at centre-half have been a driving force behind the club’s march to second in the League One table, was granted leave of absence earlier this month to deal with what officials described as a “personal, private matter”.

But, having seen his teammate report back for duty ahead of today’s game against Tranmere Rovers, Simonsen said: “I think all of the lads here had a little prayer for Neill. Football is football but family is family and that’s far more important.

“We’re all really pleased to see Neill back. He’s a great character, a great bloke and he’s led by example.”

Collins, together with fellow absentee Kevin McDonald (hamstring), will be assessed by coaching staff before manager Danny Wilson decides whether to select them against Ronnie Moore’s side.

“Neill wanted to play on Tuesday (at Colchester) but I didn’t think he was ready,” Wilson revealed yesterday.

Simonsen, who was powerless to prevent Steven Gillespie snatching a draw for John Ward’s men in midweek, is adamant Collins’ experience will prove an asset as United attempt to consolidate their grip on second spot.

“We saw our entire backline stripped out in the space of one game but we’ve got lads coming back now,” Simonsen, the former Rovers goalkeeper, said. “The lads who came in did really well but it takes time to build up an understanding.

“We’ve had a settled back four pretty much all season and that partnership was built over the space of nine months and 40 or so games.

“You can’t build the same thing in a matter of hours.”